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Muslim Girl Magazine: A Review

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

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2magnov00coverSometime last year, I was passing by the magazine rack of a local drugstore when something caught my eye. I turned around. I stared. I blinked. I stared again.

It was big. It was glossy. It was colourful. It kinda looked like LouLou or Glamour or some other teen girl magazine… except that it had… it had… it had a hijaabi on the cover! It was… Muslim Girl Magazine.

To Enlighten, Celebrate and Inspire.”A magazine for Muslim girls in the West, showcasing their realities and encouraging them to greater heights.

I admit it, I’m a sucker. They got me at ‘Muslim Girl Magazine.’ I grabbed it, stared at it some more, and then folded it to my chest with the kind of emotion you usually feel when you’ve finally met someone whom you dreamt of for years, and now here they are right in front you. And then I had to fork out sixteen dollars to take it home, but what the hey. My joy at finding a fancy magazine aimed towards, and featuring, Muslim girls blinded me to any concern about dents to my wallet. There was also some vague notion about my duty to the readers of MuslimMatters to bring attention to and analyse relevant media issues… but mostly I was just excited.

I paid. I took it home. And then I experienced the sinking feeling of disappointment that you experience after you find out that the person you dreamed of meeting, whom you’ve now finally met, isn’t really what you were expecting or hoping for after all.

Before I launch into a ruthless and scathing critique, let me first say that I think the premise of the magazine is wonderful, and I commend its creators for marshaling the resources and talents to put together such a professional and high-quality publication. The layout is fantastic, the photography is top-notch, the entire thing is impressive and, at a glance,  it’s almost everything I dreamed that a Muslim girl’s magazine would look like.

Until you get to the content.

The Good Stuff

Let me be fair and at least give credit where credit is due. The magazine begins with an editorial introducing the issue’s theme, which is Ramadhaan. Features included in the magazine were the “Ask A Girl!” column’s thoughts and tips from readers on how to kick bad habits during Ramadhaan; medical experts’ suggestions on how to eat well, stay healthy, and benefit from fasting in every way; a reflection on the spirit of Ramadhaan; and a report on the growing phenomenon of high school and university Fast-A-Thons, sponsored by the Muslim Students’ Associations. Fun pieces included a “Ramadhaan I Am” quiz, a “Top 10 Ramadhaan Resolutions” list, and short anecdotes submitted by readers about their Ramadhaan experiences with friends, family, and school.

Additional pieces of the magazine also caught my interest, and I read them carefully. The “Muslim Girl Mailbox” surprised me somewhat, as it revealed how diverse the magazine’s readership really is – from an Indian Catholic girl and a non-hijaab wearing ‘average Muslimah’ to munaqqabaat. An interview with a Muslim girl studying martial arts with her father and uncle was enjoyable, as it reminded me of my own brief stint in the field. Also appreciated was a full-length interview with sister Ingrid Mattson, who had just been elected as president of ISNA, as well as a short article titled “Finding the Prophet in His People,” by sister Ingrid herself.

Other commendable sections included a Health & Lifestyle Q-&-A column, a feature on cybersafety for Muslim girls, and a full-length report on the admirable work of a Muslim girl who single-handedly founded a non-profit charitable organization for Iraqi children whose lives were devastated by the war. A multi-cultural recipe corner had me drooling. Finally, the travel section was great (a tour through Turkey), and I really liked a cute little page titled “GirlSpace,” about the girls and their relationship with their masaajid.

The Bad Stuff

With all the good stuff in the magazine, I thought at first that the bad stuff would be minimal, or at least easy to gloss over. As I kept going through the magazine and thinking about its readers, however, I just couldn’t let it go.

First of all, I was disappointed with the fashion spread. I’m as taken by sparkly shiny pretty things as the next girl out there, but personally I didn’t think that a fashion spread featuring made-up, de-hijaabed girls was quite appropriate. Okay, I get the whole “not all Muslim girls wear hijaab” and “modesty is the key, just keep covered and you can still look gorgeous!” thing, but I still don’t agree with it. There are many other ways to showcase pretty clothes with showcasing the pretty girls along with them.

What I found even more upsetting, though, was the inclusion of product and media reviews that not only mentioned, but praised, musicians and other other dubious, if not outright haraam, characters/ behaviours. There’s an entire spread on “Grammy Award-winning Songwriter Zuriani Zonneveld,” a page dedicated to music as part of the “Hot List” section, and a review of the TV show “Gossip Girls.” As someone involved in trying to encourage young Muslim girls to not listen to music and pursue more halaal forms of entertainment, I didn’t appreciate this publication – which should be helping me out here – giving a totally contrary message.

Nor was I impressed with “Muslim Girl of the Month,” and “Muslim Girl International,” where the girls featured weren’t exactly what I’d encourage my girls to look up to and follow. No doubt, it’s great that Muslim girls are getting more exposure and in a positive light, but I for one do expect that practicing Islam is one of the main requirements in order for someone to be considered a role model.

Conclusion

The magazine has a lot of promise and potential and does deliver some measure of material that is quite impressive; however, it also has an undeniably “progressive/ modernist” slant to it which I find a major drawback. As much as I love seeing a magazine aimed at Muslim girls, employing techniques that other mass media use to draw in the readers, I would be very, very hesitant to recommend this magazine to Muslim girls. It may, perhaps, be a way of inviting and attracting the attention of those interested in Islam, or those with only a tentative connection to the Deen; but I do think that for the majority of Muslim families who are trying to encourage their daughters and sisters to be stronger, this isn’t the best magazine for them to turn to.

While I think that MGM is indeed a ground-breaking publication in that it’s dared to try something utterly different from the mainstream media in terms of content while relating to it in style, the mentality behind it isn’t one that I support. Insha’Allah, I hope that in the future there will be more Muslim-centred publications that combine a solid, more Deen-y agenda with an element of fun and fancy, that can have a greater, more positive effect on the Muslim girls of this Ummah.

Next up: A review of SISTERS magazine!

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young Canadian Muslimah, originally from the West Coast of Canada. She writes about whatever concerns her about the state of the Muslim Ummah, drawing upon her experiences and observations within her own local community. You may contact her at anonymouse@muslimmatters.org She is is no longer a writer for MuslimMatters.org.

78 Comments

78 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Ninja

    May 20, 2009 at 10:26 AM

    Well what can I say except..

    “The battle for hearts and minds” by Imam Anwar al-Awlaki comes to mind.

  2. Pingback: Muslim Girl Magazine: A Review | Arts

  3. Avatar

    AnonyMuslim

    May 20, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    As a caveat, I’v never seen this magazine, so my basis for the following post is simply from reading the author’s post.

    Although I fully support criticism from the perspective of encouraging dialogue in the Muslim community, I found this review to be particularly unhelpful in that it decontextualized the “good” and the “bad” points from the current lack of alternatives available today for Muslim women when it comes to magazines on newsstands.

    After weighing the subjective “good” and “bad” no clear analysis was given as to what criteria might be more objectively important for the community to consider, nor was there any effort made to suggest “solutions” as to what potential readers could do if they have a problem with some of the content. Why not discuss the organization behind the magazine and list an address where people could write with suggestions and feedback? Simple things like this would have made this “review” more useful from a reader’s perspective. Instead it is the typical complaint we have come to expect from Muslims – one without a solution or real analysis of the problems that the subject of the complaint is seeking to address.

    As to the previous post: So called “Imam” Anwar Awlaki brings to mind everything that is wrong with the understanding of Islam by Muslims today, to balanced Muslims at least.

    • Avatar

      MuslimGirl

      May 20, 2009 at 5:09 PM

      AnonyMuslim,
      Can you please expand on what you said about “Imam” Anwar Awlaki?
      Thanks

  4. Avatar

    Sadaf

    May 20, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    Thanks for the review. You are right; fashion and couture can be showcased without actually showcasing women. That’s how it’s done in SISTERS Magazine. When will you review that for us? :-)
    Jazakillahu Khairan.

  5. Avatar

    MR

    May 20, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    People still read magazines?

    • Avatar

      HalalBuzz

      June 3, 2009 at 4:29 PM

      MR,

      Women magazines are still popular in print.

      We did a market research and one sister put it this way: Even if I don’t read it, simply putting it on my coffee table feels good. (She was talking about the glossy print of SISTERS).

  6. Avatar

    Yusuf Smith

    May 20, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Sixteen bucks? That sounds like A LOT for a magazine. Not that I’m that familiar with US prices, but here, we have a glossy Muslim magazine (Emel) aimed mostly at women which costs £3.50 or something, and that’s about $5 or $6 (or somewhere in between) at current exchange rates.

    Although it doesn’t promote music, it has a few problems which put me off buying it even though it’s the only Muslim magazine out there since the demise of Q-News and Islamica. It’s much too middle-class and promotes too much luxury dunya, a lot of which has nothing to do with Islam. And there’s the modesty issues … but then, not all Muslim women wear hijab and some do listen to music. It’s a matter of being able to keep the magazine afloat, and the only way they can do it, I guess, is to be inclusive. At least the music doesn’t just play when you open the magazine!

  7. Avatar

    MJ

    May 20, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    Had you recommended the magazine, I would have read your article and gone on to the next one on MuslimMatters – without a second thought. But now that you say that you would *not* recommend this publication, after mentioning that it indeed has some ‘good stuff’, I feel compelled to buy it myself and reach my own conclusions.

  8. Avatar

    Jamila

    May 20, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    I think SISTERS magazine tops this any other womans magazine to date. It has rich content without compromising the deen, its not ashamed of itself nor is it apologetic to any culture or society. It stands on its own and is confident throughout.

    I found too many liberal magazines like Elan and others just living off the ‘Muslim’ name. We are not a cultural sect or tribe, we are a people who believe in a concept, a way of life. So magazines like Elan fail.

    Emel in the UK – started off well, although looks brilliant has lost so much readership and has no appeal to the mass of Muslims, simply because it has become more and more liberal. Probably because of a desperate attempt to find relevant content and thus is forced to move to non-practising Muslims.

    Again the ‘muslim’ tribal aspect is catered for. I want a magazine that talks to me because I’m Muslim by faith not by culture or tribe or just NAME.

    Thats why I like SISTERS.

    (no I dont work for SISTERS!)

  9. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    May 20, 2009 at 12:38 PM

    I had a similar type of experience as you.

    I was putting my shoes on at the local masjid when I came across the mail-in subscription postcard for Muslim Girl Magazine. I was very impressed by the design of the card, because like the magazine, it was very professional and well made. Also, there was only sleek typography design on the card, and I thought maybe this is a magazine that is intending to empower sisters in a way that’s very dignified. I took it home with me to check it out and see what it was all about.

    That’s when I saw the website, the way they have Muslim girl models very decked out, and promptly closed the page.

    Sure the magazine isn’t for me, and men shouldn’t be looking at women who are dressed up like that. But it’s not the issue of “men could see it!” vs. “well, they shouldn’t be looking, anyway!” that concerns me. Rather, it’s the mentality that it brings.

    That Muslim girls should be so into beautifying themselves, looking super cute and accessorizing, and literally adorning themselves. It just doesn’t sit well with the likes of Surah Noor 24:31 “…and do not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers…”

    Aside from that, what you’ve mentioned about the focus on issues like Ramadan and other beneficial aspects, I commend our sisters for their efforts and I ask Allah to accept their work for His pleasure. At the same time, I hope they can correct what I respectfully disagree with.

    We ask Allah to help us do what best pleases Him.

  10. Avatar

    Shirtman

    May 20, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    Let’s encourage the efforts and be positive, these people are working hard to provide an alternative to much worse magazines filled with gossip and fahisha. If you have suggestions, I am sure they have a contact number.

    Thanks.

    Shirtman

  11. Zainab (AnonyMouse)

    Zainab (AnonyMouse)

    May 20, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    @ AnonyMuslim
    This post is a review of a publication, not a “this is what’s wrong with the Muslims and we need to do x. y, and z” to fix it. That being said, I do believe that I gave credit where credit was due for good work and the efforts behind it – and I don’t think that pointing out certain areas which I felt were incorrect or lacking was simply nonconstructive thinking.

    It was suggested that I contact those behind the scenes – however, I can tell you from now that it wouldn’t have done any good. The people behind the magazine have their own mentality and agenda (as do everyone else!), and it is stated clearly in the magazine itself (in responses to letters) that the mag. is not out to ‘preach’ or propogate one viewpoint, but rather to be ‘accepting’ of the entire reality of Muslims in the West… including those things which I, for one, consider to be haraam.

    Further, I am indeed acutely aware of the lack of appropriate material geared towards Muslim women in the media; indeed, it is for that reason that I make a point of searching for such publications. However, lacking something doesn’t mean that we can be happy about everything and anything when something like this shows up: it’s subject to as much criticism as anything else.

    @ Yusuf Smith
    Yes, unfortunately the Canadian/ American market in magazines is quite expensive. I suppose some excuse can be given about the price since it’s pretty hefty and full of content, as well as the fancy photography and layout (not to mention relatively fledgeling), but when I found out the price for SISTERS in comparison, I admit to feeling rather ripped off.
    I was hoping to get a copy of Emel for review as well, but it’s not available here in Canada and I didn’t recieve a response from the company itself.

    @MJ
    Just to warn you, the magazine is currently out of print due to financial difficulties… although apparently they’ll send you back issues if you ask (and pay).

    @ Sadaf and Jamila
    Insha’Allah a review of SISTERS will be coming up soon(ish) :)

  12. Avatar

    Saimah

    May 20, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    JazakAllah Khayr Sr. Zainab for the balanced review :)

    I’ve also read the MGM and had problems with it. I agree with you about how the fashion section kinda sorta promotes Muslim girls to wear clothes that don’t jive with Islamic standards. I was also surprised at some of the people they showcased as ‘role-models’ for Muslim girls to follow and the reviews about pop culture (music, TV shows and movies) I would also not recommend it, especially for younger Muslim pre-teens.

    Kudos AnonyMouse! :)

  13. Avatar

    Farhan

    May 20, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    I’m sure its a good alternative for teenage Muslim girls than Vogue or whatever. I’d prob wanna preview it first and run it through my wifey, but if its legit, I’d buy it for my daughter and encourage it. I mean, its for girls-only anyways, right? (That is, when I actually get married and have a daughter and my daughter gets older)

  14. Avatar

    Asmaa

    May 20, 2009 at 4:31 PM

    I am just curious, did you contact Muslim Girl Magazine at all and ask them to respond to some of your concerns? I, for one, wasn’t even aware that this magazine was still around. I wonder if it has gone quarterly or bi-annual – the price used to be much, much lower (about $5 or 6 US).

    A suggestion for you for future reviews – including SISTERS – please do let us know about their customer service and reliability. Some of these more “deen oriented, mashAllaah” magazines have appalling track records as far as cashing checks and not sending subscriptions, publishing issues when they say they’re going to, dealing fairly and in a timely matter with advertisers, updating paid subscribers on the magazine’s status when it goes on ‘hiatus’, not answering emails or voice mails, etc. I’m not naming names – that’s for you blogging journalists to do, after you investigate this matter. Is it any wonder, then, that most of them can’t seem to make a go of it for more than a few years? The only magazine — make that ISLAMIC Magazine — that I did not have this experience with was Azizah, but I was told that they are going out of business and having some other problems.

  15. Zainab (AnonyMouse)

    Zainab (AnonyMouse)

    May 20, 2009 at 5:24 PM

    @ Asmaa
    As I mentioned previously, while I personally had no contact with the editors of the magazine, the Letters to the Editor section clued me in on what their response would be – there were a couple letters in that issue that actually expressed the same kind of concerns that I had about it, and the reply from the editors was that the magazine tried to reach and appeal to all Muslim women from different backgrounds/ levels/ opinions… basically, that they weren’t going to stop including pictures of made-up girls or interviews with musicians.

    Insha’Allah I’ll try to write and post the review of SISTERS soon, but here’s a hint: I loved it! And their customer service really is fantastic, jazaahumAllahu khairan.

    Also, if there are any other magazines specifically that you’d like me to review, drop me a line at anonymouse(at)muslimmatters.org and insha’Allah I’ll try to get a copy and do my duty to the readers of MM :)

  16. Avatar

    Sameer

    May 20, 2009 at 8:14 PM

    salaam aleikum,

    my criticism of this review is that it didn’t go far enough. One can transparently look at the issues of revealed women, music, promotion of western TV shows etc. between the covers. Even worse is the concepts and ideas espoused by some of the “Muslim” writers, many of whom are on-record as being out-and-out neo-cons and leaders of the “progressive” (pro-regressive) Muslim nonsense (i.e. support for homosexual Muslims, women led prayer, and de-politicized “spiritualized” sufism).

    this is the link to their “senior contributing writers” page. 3 names immediately pop out:

    1. Mona ElTahawy aka Wolfowitz’s darling and RAND pet….

    rather than go on a long diatribe, I thought I’d let her own words do the talking:

    a. Palestine is NOT a Muslim issue.

    b. “No such thing as shar’iah”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/14/opinion/14iht-edelta.3898861.html

    c. Absolute contempt for hijab, in this piece

    This blog does an excellent job of “Detoxifying” the sickness in this secularist cum Muslim.

    2. Raheel Raza:

    a. Say NO to the burka campaign here.

    b. interview for David Hororwitz’s pro-zionist FrontpageMag here
    (one of the promoters of “Islamofascism”)

    c. “islamist” role in Canadian elections

    (again every article/blog submitted is for right wing/zionist/neo-con promoting blogs/sites)

    3. Pamela K. Taylor,

    a. her own positions on “women leading prayers” “hijab being fardh” etc. in her own words
    here

    b. co-chair of “Progressive Muslim Union of North America”, organization, it subsequently died a long desired death, as its megalomaniac leader, Tareq Fatah, ran it into the ground.
    It was/is well exposed here

    —————————————————————————

    just for review I think re-referring back to the text of the divine revelation of the RAND report here would be of use for our secular followers and their supporters (however few there may be).

    This is to say nothing of the opaque financing of this magazine. As long as these people are in any way associated with this magazine, it is not one to be mildly critiqued but actively and vociferously shunned into oblivion. It would actually be better (from an Islamic and political point of view) to have Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, David Horowitz, Robert Spencer, Ariel Sharon, et al write a “Muslim” girls magazine openly expressing their hatred of all things Islam than to have their deluded lackeys and pets do the same.

    If these are the types of ‘Muslim’ women writing, would you really want your daughter to grow up espousing kufr of this variety and trying to pass this off as Islam as any of the 3 above do???

    I rest my case.

    salaam aleikum,
    Sam

    • Avatar

      ihsan

      May 20, 2009 at 10:31 PM

      good points…worthwhile points to consider. it brings to mind the rand muslim concept.

      ukhti zainab make sure you consider in your SISTERS magazine (mashallah) review whether or not it’s recommended for youth… there is a severe lack of good material out there for youth that is “cool, hip, modern and islamic…” at the same time!

  17. Avatar

    PA

    May 20, 2009 at 10:13 PM

    How about a review of Azizah magazine?

  18. Avatar

    sabiwabi

    May 20, 2009 at 10:44 PM

    Q news and Islamica have both tanked?!

    :(

    Didn’t know that.

  19. Avatar

    AnonyMuslim

    May 20, 2009 at 11:00 PM

    I don’t like getting into the position of defending people with whom I don’t agree on many isues, but a cursory review of what Sameer posted will show that he is either lying or misinformed with respect to his attack on Mona ElTahawy allegedly saying “there is no such thing as Shari’ah.”

    In fact in the article he posted, she clearly says and provides evidence for the sound reasoning that a “universal” intrepretation of what defines Shari’ah doesn’t exist. Only a narrow-minded literalist with little to no understanding of Islam would distort that statement and conclude that it is an attack on Shari’ah, and we obviously have no shortage of people who fall into that category in the Muslim community.

    As a side point in the article that Sameer posted, Mona was responding to a rabid Hizb-ut-Tahir follower’s statement that the so called “Shari’ah of God,” free Speech, and Democracy are incompatible, what a joke.

  20. Avatar

    Sameer

    May 20, 2009 at 11:29 PM

    >I don’t like getting into the position of defending people with whom I don’t agree on many issues, but a cursory >review of what Sameer posted will show that he is either lying or misinformed with respect to his attack on >Mona ElTahawy allegedly saying “there is no such thing as Shari’ah.”

    1. I didn’t know there was any point on which you disagreed with El Tahawy on, certainly not from any of your comments.

    2. Obviously you can’t read very well..this is taken from the NY Times article i posted 5th paragraph down:

    When I realized he was serious I dragged out my usual defense to his line of thinking: Whose version of Shariah, I asked him? The religious leaders in Iran? Turkey? Saudi Arabia? Egypt, my country of birth?

    The Shariah of God,” he adamantly replied.

    There is no such thing,” I told the young man, who identified himself as a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the radical Islamist group.

    3. Feel more than free to provide any form of spin you can as to explain to other Muslims on here (with Islamic evidences):
    a. Why Palestine is NOT a Muslim issue (but defending Israel for the neo-cons clearly is).
    b. Why Hijab is NOT fardh nor a part of Islam (according to you and El Tahawy as well as other neo-cons).

    Sam

    PS – Paging “Dr. M”, if your out there this is a pro-regressive wanting to masquerade as if secularisim and Islam are the same.

  21. Avatar

    student

    May 21, 2009 at 3:27 AM

    I applaud the fact that your review was balanced. Unfortunately most authors would not have resisted the temptation to go on a huge all-caps rant. Thank you.

    There are 3 things I want to comment on. First, the music question. There are many sincere and religious Muslims that listen to music. Music is even played at many large conferences. If you disagree with this, that is fine, and thus you may think that MGM’s music references are inappropriate for people who think that music is haram. But I don’t think this is a strong point of contention, since you wouldn’t advocate not attending a conference on the basis of the fact that it has a concert with music (I hope). I think we should accept the fact that many Muslims are choosing an extreme minority opinion that is turning into a more widely accepted one. And move on.

    Second, the non-hijab question. I think it is obvious that the people behind MGM don’t share the same approach as most of us here at MM. It is fair to criticize their stance on issues like Hijab, but at the end of the day, I don’t think MGM is going to convince practicing Muslims that they ought to take off their Hijabs. They are not going to win the issue. On the other hand I think things like MGM have a good chance of uplifting the spirits of young Muslim sisters who are borderline – they are doubting that their religion can be hip and can fit in in their society, and maybe even doubting that they need to be Muslim. This sort of thing can boost their spirits. Maybe MGM is not for you or me or the readers of MM. Maybe it is for another readership altogether, and if so, it should be viewed from the perspective of its impact on that readership, not on our natural reaction to it.

    Finally, the issue of promoting material things, excessive makeup and beautification, etc. I think this is worthy of criticism since this should not just be an issue for Muslims but for all women. I was once in a Halal restaurant and they had MGM. I flipped through and found the pictures ridiculous, just like the people on fashion runways look ridiculous. (Who wears those clothes/makeup in real life?!?!) Everyone looked fake. I don’t think a Muslim magazine needs to imitate the ideas of non-Muslim ones in order to succeed.

    That said, I return to the bolded line above. If MGM does nothing for you, no need to buy it. If it helps you, then great. Maybe the gist of your review should not have been “I wouldn’t recommend this to Muslim youth” but “This Muslim is not very good for readers like me, who are at a certain maturity and comfort zone in their religion. For us, we need something truer to our values, truer to what we know Islam to be. But hopefully this magazine can benefit those who are in a more shaky position.” I guess you said that to some extent, but you waffled between the two approaches.

    At the end of the day, thanks for writing a civil review.

    • Zainab (AnonyMouse)

      Zainab (AnonyMouse)

      May 21, 2009 at 2:57 PM

      Thank you for the kind words :)

      With regards to the points you brought up, especially those about the music and hijaab, then to be honest, I have no intention of letting something like that slide.
      Yes, perhaps there is a “difference of opinion” about music for some people – but I am firmly of the believe that it is unequivocably haraam. So too with hijaab.

      As I mentioned previously, I approach all self-proclaimed “Islamic” books/ magazines/ articles/ lectures/ whatever with a certain mentality, and so I unapologetically review and critique them according to my mindset. While I understand that they may not be big issues for others, they are still important to me and it is because of the impact that the magazine can have on others that I am so concerned. The goal of making Islam seem “hip” and “fit into society” is one which in and of itself is debatable; but even if one chooses to try and do so, then I firmly believe that can be done without compromising certain principles which I do hold to be important.

      “Maybe MGM is not for you or me or the readers of MM. Maybe it is for another readership altogether, and if so, it should be viewed from the perspective of its impact on that readership, not on our natural reaction to it.”

      This is certainly an interesting point. However, as I said above, my mentality is that there’s a way to impact a certain readership – even/ esp. if they’re at a different level/ maturity/ comfort zone as ‘us’ – without showcasing/ encouraging/ making acceptable what is not acceptable (as I see it).
      In the end, it does go back to the agenda of those behind the magazine and the message they’re trying to send to their readership. Some aspects of it I agree with it (in that they’re trying to reach out to young Muslims who need a boost), but the way they are doing so, I strongly disagree with… and that which I consider to be wrong, I do not want to have taught/ exposed/ encouraged amongst those whom I wish the very best for.

      Once again, thank you for comment :)

      • Avatar

        h. ahmed

        May 21, 2009 at 4:39 PM

        as salaam alaikum

        I strongly agree with ‘student’s comment.

        Yes many of us may believe music is haraam, or that hijaab is fard, or that tv/movies for the most part are evil/corrupting – but the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of young Muslims do listen to music, dont wear hijab, and do watch tv/movies.

        This magazine seemed to be a great alternative to the other garbage that exists in the media which is entirely haraam (filled with sex ,etc.).

        We should stop being do divisive (categorizing Muslims based on their level of Islam (practice) )- and become more encompassing – inviting all types of Muslims to work together on issues – even those we disagree with on fundamental issues. This doesnt mean we have to compromise our core beliefs, but leave those issues aside for the purpose of advancing what we do agree with.

        Yes, i wouldnt want my younger sister or daughter reading about the latest storylines on gossip girl or what not [I have no idea what gossip girl is about and if its even a bad show or not , but im assuming it is] – but i would much rather that she reads this type of magazine (and herself have the wisdom and intellect to stay away from such Tv shows) – rather than the alternatives.

        THere is room for Muslims at all levels to contribute to the advancement of our ummah. Instead of looking for reasons to divide us – or denounce a person’s actions because of finding some flaws in their works/past – we should embrace the good and help promote it.

        It is a shame that all of these Muslim magazines are failing – and im sure a lot has to do with Muslims hating on these magazines for being too liberal, too intellectual, too spiritual, not spiritual enough, etc. The Muslim community is diverse and we will NEVER agree on everything – and we should embrace the diversity and respect our differences of opinion – yet at the same time encourage brotherhood/sisterhood and coming together to promote common goals and ideals.

        Meanwhile the Muslim American Culture fails to develop and develop and society is continually getting worse and more difficult for young Muslims.

        And Allah (swt) knows best.

        • Zainab (AnonyMouse)

          Zainab (AnonyMouse)

          May 21, 2009 at 4:55 PM

          It is a shame that all of these Muslim magazines are failing

          Not true, actually – both al-Jumu’ah and SISTERS magazine are (strongly) Islamically oriented, use language that is easy to understand and enjoyable to read, and are both going strong masha’Allah.

          Meanwhile the Muslim American Culture fails to develop

          I disagree with this also – although the North American/ Western Muslim culture is still working out a lot of kinks, I think that masha’Allah we’re really on our way to establishing something distinct and uniquely Muslim. (I think I had a post on this a while ago).

          In the end, everyone’s got their own opinion on this, and may Allah guide us all to what is most correect, ameen :)

  22. Pingback: A Muslimah Magazine? - IslamicEvents.SG

  23. Avatar

    J

    May 21, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    As-Salam Alaykum.

    Brother Amad
    — may this find you in the best of health and Imaan.

    I have not read any of this article, but I just want to say: please edit the picture to remove the sister in hijab. MM already gets enough flack from the extremists. No reason to give them something else to beat down MM with. Plus, it’s not proper anyways (which is a more important reason to remove it).

    Fi Aman Allah

    • Avatar

      Muslimah

      May 28, 2009 at 1:17 PM

      You can tell the girl does her eyebrows too..their just too perfect! And we all know Allah cursed those women who pluck their eyebrows, so why have someone whom Allah has cursed displayed. Sister Zainab, please cover the face of this girl.

      • Avatar

        ummm

        June 2, 2009 at 9:10 AM

        cover her body…..she got something tying her waist…

        may Allah forgive us

  24. Amad

    Amad

    May 21, 2009 at 4:50 PM

    J, not my article, not my territory :)

    I should remind everyone that as Sr. Zainab said, this is her take and her review of the magazine. By no means is MM’s take (as a whole) on the magazine. Every writer has the opportunity to give his or her own respective opinions. So that is what it is, unless the post is explicitly signed off by MM.

    P.S. I am also not saying that I disagree with the post either or that others on MM’s team disagree with it; I haven’t read the magazine, though Mona’s presence bothers me significantly. I think music is lower on my issues compared to presence of staunch secularists who go to great lengths to attack mainstream Islam.

    • Avatar

      J

      May 22, 2009 at 3:32 AM

      OK bro Amad. May Allah [swt] reward you and the rest of MM for your tireless efforts. And thanks for almost giving me a headache by posting the YQ article on his recent conversion.

  25. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    May 21, 2009 at 5:44 PM

    I will not subscribe to this magazine for my impressionable 4 year old daughter now that I’ve read this review.

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      sincethestorm

      May 22, 2009 at 7:20 PM

      Young girls will be looking through seventeen or cosmo…I think we all have to embrace this Americanized version of Islam. It wasn’t around when we were growing up but the future generation will gravitate towards this because they are growing up here. So either we accept and modify it or we stay in denial.

      • Avatar

        Salahudin

        May 22, 2009 at 8:01 PM

        Americans (and many Muslims living in America included) are also committing zinna, should we also accept, embrace, and celebrate that with a magazine too?

    • Avatar

      afifa

      June 15, 2009 at 12:07 AM

      May be you should give Recess Kids a shot :)

      http://recesskids.com

  26. Avatar

    tahir

    May 22, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    This magazine sounds very similar to the magazine from UK “Emel”

    I was impressed with the concept of Emel when i first heard of it but then i saw a issue of “emel” that read “Salaam Music Festival” and how they went on saying that Islam is all tolerant etc and they were basically backing the promotion of a music festival that had qawals from Pakistan, derwish’s from Turkey and similar musicians from all over the muslims world.

    Magazines like these should be scrutinized and curbed because they are trying distort Islam just to sell a few glossies. No wonder the west loves them and encourages them because they promote all things material and all things which are haram in Islam.

    I dont think women should be posing in such magazines, a women’s true hijab is to cover her face now if she is covering her entire body but smiling away at petty newstands the world over then the concept of hijab is quite lost.

    Islam today is more under threat from these moderate muslims and these so called enlightened momins. They prove a greater challenge and a more grave threat to Islam because when a muslim goes around doing such things people (esp young ones) immediatly think it must be right.

    Lets all write to such magazines and tell them that they must use their forums to promote islam the right way and avoid haram things.

    • Avatar

      Seemeen

      May 26, 2009 at 10:05 AM

      very true brother tahir and i fully support your views that are pure Islamic views, ma sha’Allah.

  27. Avatar

    zainab

    May 26, 2009 at 8:04 AM

    IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THE PUBLISHERS CONSIST OF NON MUSLIMS BUT IF OTHER WISE THEN THE MAGAZINE SHOULD NOT BE COMMENDED .FOR ALLAH’S SAKE IT IS EITHER YOU DO WHAT IS RIGHT OR YOU DON’T.THEY MADE A MISTAKE AND THANKS FOR SPOTING IT OUT.THEY SHOULD TRY AND MAKE NECESSARY CORRECTIONS.MAY ALLAH GUIDE US ALL TO THE RIGHT PATH.AMIN

  28. Avatar

    Seemeen

    May 26, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    Assalaam-u-alaykum,
    I was wondering, is there any online magazine for muslimahs? if not, shouldn’t there be one? plus if you could give me a link to muslim sisters websites, it would be really appreciated.
    fee amaan Allah

  29. Avatar

    (annonymous)

    May 28, 2009 at 12:40 AM

    assalam `alaykum

    Wonderful review, I agree with most of the comments made in support of your review on the magazine. I saw the magazine (most likely the same one) and I put it down myself for the same reasons you and br. Saaqib had mentioned.

    Re: Seemeen – if outside sources are allowed to be posted :)

    Here is an online site – which I personally know a few of the contributors. In light of all the comments, this may be something which some MM readers may enjoy reading by diverse authors. http://www.muslimahsource.org/

    wa Allahu ta’ala a`alam.

    • Avatar

      Seemeen

      May 28, 2009 at 2:38 PM

      Salam,
      Jazakallahu Khayrun
      i visited the website and it is a nice one.
      thank u once again :)

  30. Avatar

    Marya

    May 29, 2009 at 6:16 AM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q1e_5KJ5Ok

    ^^ really good video about Muslim women in the UK, and has an interview with the editor of SISTERS Magazine.

  31. Avatar

    PC Fan

    June 2, 2009 at 4:47 AM

    I completely agree with your review. It is what I thought as well, and it raised alot of questions for me about what this magazine was doing. JazakAllah Khair & thank-you for being honest.

    Its great that there are more Muslim products, Alhamdulillah, but businesses have to remember that Muslims shouldn’t be treated just as a consumer market to exploit.

    Theory of religion has to be applied correctly and be the basis of their function, if they are going to sell themselves as an “islamic” product/service.

  32. Avatar

    ummm

    June 2, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    it’s unfortunate to see a woman’s face on a Muslim blog who has contributors that publicly tell people to lower their gaze….

    yet they fail to prevent an evil such as….

    even though this might be perceived as something minuscule, if people’s hearts have stopped cringing when they see the face of a woman(she;s not even fully hiding the shape of her body astaghfirAllah) in the name of being ‘Western’ and ‘American’, our deen is seriously in danger living in the West.

    not to forgot that this woman possibly actually modeled to be put on the cover of a magazine, allahu’Alam

    I almost never read Imam Anwar’s blog, but just the fact that this is happening and our hearts are dying and and our deen being lost very slowly, would make his case for Hijra stronger.

    • Avatar

      Sarah

      June 8, 2009 at 11:34 AM

      Never knew that a ‘woman’s face’ was something so shameful in our deen…

      • Avatar

        zainab

        June 9, 2009 at 5:13 AM

        IN OUR DEEN THE WOMANS FACE IS SUPPOSED TO BE BEAUTIFIED FOR HER HUSBAND ALONE SO ………………………………………

        • Avatar

          Sarah

          June 14, 2012 at 9:00 PM

          Honestly, i think it’s degrading for a woman to hide her face all the time except for her husband. Women should be empowered, not treated like they should permanently be ashamed of their womanhood.

  33. Avatar

    ummm

    June 2, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    some of the contributors are free to post here and forbid the evil…

    what’s wrong?

  34. Avatar

    ExEx Blogger

    June 2, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    !

  35. Avatar

    messageofislam

    June 3, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    interesting, well instead of having Muslim sisters spending hours on Vogue,Femina, Bazaar why not have a decent magazine for them to spend time reading on, hint as long as it is “Decent” then i don’t see a problem in that….. that’s just my opinion and everyone is entitle to their own opinion…….

  36. Avatar

    Angie

    June 4, 2009 at 3:42 AM

    I agree with this review, I read thru an issue of it once and was very disappointed in how low our standards have become for children.. subhan Allah!!

  37. Avatar

    Azeem

    June 4, 2009 at 11:59 PM

    ASA

    Whoever compared Emel to MGM is off point. Emel is muslim owned and Muslim run and follows some serious standards. They do print pictures of women without hijabs if they are the focus of the article, but they don’t have women all decked out like MGM might (I have just seen one issue).

    I think MGM is an example of mainstream publishers taking notice of the Muslim Market and wanting to provide a quality product. You can’t expect non-muslims or non-practicising or non-islamically-trained individuals to understand shariah compliance for magazines.

    Emel and Islamica by far set the standards for what Muslim magazines ought to be like.

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      June 15, 2009 at 3:07 PM

      Sisters Magazine does it beautifully. :)

  38. Avatar

    Kalimaat

    June 6, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    If the review was about a Muslim men’s magazine there wouldnt be many comments from women as in the case here with men who are quick to point out what is wrong and rights about girl’s magazine.

    Muslim women are different and one single magazine cannot impress all.

    • Avatar

      zainab

      June 8, 2009 at 5:40 AM

      don’t be bias ,when it comes to religion there is noting like that.probably the men are participating more than the women plus the women are the home builders so they need to lay good example.women/ladies where are you pls participate more

  39. Avatar

    Islamic School

    June 11, 2009 at 6:02 AM

    AOA,
    Muslim women are symbol for all other women.This magazine can do a lot.But also there should be some other initiative acts.So that we able to expand the Muslim culture.

  40. Avatar

    SubmitterstoAllah

    June 12, 2009 at 2:01 AM

    Muslims are commanded to abide by the Quran and Sunnah.

    The cover of the magazine speaks for itself and reflects on the content inside. There are two opinions regarding covering for women and this kind of show casing doesn’t meet any of the two’s conditions, not even the one where the opinion is that it is allowed to keep the face and hands open.

  41. Avatar

    Aminah

    June 14, 2009 at 10:35 PM

    ASA
    I just wanted to say that i had the same exact experience with MGM and was I very sad and disappointed with it.:( The one issue i got had an article in it called “the boy next door” .I mean what do muslims have to do with dating any way? Also a muslim magazine should encourage girls to wear hijab, with all the pictures in it the were basically just saying oh you dont have to wear hijab. i understand that some girls are not comfortable wearing it but they should at least be encouraged to wear it. Inshallah someday someone will come out with a good clean Magazine for muslim teens.Ameen
    ASA
    Aminah

  42. Avatar

    lucield

    June 16, 2009 at 7:13 PM

    i dont see the huge problem about showing girls who dont wear hijab in the magazine, yeah of course hijab is fardh, but if a girl chooses not to wear it it’s her deal, if you are showing her picture for a reason or its in the magazine i dont see the issue.

    • Avatar

      zainab

      June 17, 2009 at 5:56 AM

      our deen does not entail any bodys opinion ,if allah says be it becomes and no one can challenge allah.since you said wearing the hijab is fard and the magazine is an islamic magazine and they represent islam,theire stuff should not contain what allah did not ordain.this is a point of correction ther e is an issue please.

      • Avatar

        Sahra

        September 26, 2009 at 10:32 PM

        I think your right but still the muslim girls who do not wear the hijab have been brought up by muslim parents, so if this girl’s mother never orderd her, or if her father never orderd her its not all her fault.

  43. Avatar

    Seemeen

    July 8, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    Salam to all,

    first of all, a woman’s face is nothing to be ‘ashamed’ of…instead it is the pride and honour given to her that requires her to cover it so that no pervert will dare take any action. muslims shouldn’t have any kind of inferiority complex about this issue…that only arises when they r influenced by the west. im sure if the west starts practising hijaab (lol…just an example) those ‘Muslims’ with very low self-esteem and confidence would b the first ones to follow it. and why would a woman want to beautify herself for ghair mahrams???

    @umm: u r right…the lady on the cover page is not properly covered. that is the first thing i noticed…but was very surprised that it was not taken into account by anyone…many Muslims these days believe that covering the hair alone is hijaab…honestly for a pervert other parts of the body are more alluring. do not change Islamic laws according to ur whims!!

    also a muslim girl should not show her zeenat and things that beautify her….the girl is clearly waring her visible to all…waring clothes that reveal her body shape.

    definitely not what i would ever call an ideal muslimah.

    @zainab…fully agree with u

  44. Avatar

    Sahra

    September 26, 2009 at 10:29 PM

    I actually bought one magazine and thought it was brilliant. You know its very hard being a teen girl in America with highschool teenagers being pressured to party, have sex, get a boyfriend, do drugs and many other things. I thought that reading the magazine made me a stronger person a stronger muslim and most of all have a stronger faith in Allah. I think the magazine is great and should continue publication for generatins and years to come. Its a great magazine and the fashion spread was also great becuase it allowed me to wear the hijab and be more modest in a fashinoable way (i.e without having to look like my mom lol). I thank the magazine and hope that more things better to come for the publication.

    :),
    Sahra

  45. Avatar

    Safa

    January 7, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    I particularly enjoy Modest Beautiful Muslima Magazine. It makes me feel very empowered as a Muslim women and it does not shy away from our deen.

  46. Avatar

    Beeeebo

    March 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    I agree and also slightly disagree.

    1) Yes a majority of young Muslims do listen to music and such, but I also know a lot of sisters my age that avoids it. However, I realize that putting in a music section is really silly.. I am guilty of listening to music, but if I could find an alternative magazine that suits my life and Islam, I would not buy one that has music. In fact, I try my best to avoid the Hollywood glamour and music industry mess in America. Things like that just cause people to be busy doing things like stalking a celebrity’s every movement or so. Therefore, this magazine wouldn’t be for me if it contains music and worldy extravagance like expensive accessories and clothes. However, since it is available, any Muslimah can pick this up and read it as they wish. It’s just the content isn’t exactly 100% halaal and meeting Islamic standards.

    2) I am not a fan of seeing non-hijabi models, because sometimes, it causes weak people to just want to take off hijab and show their bodies. I have felt this way many times from music videos shown on tv and magazines. But this is not everyone, so I cannot condemn the magazine for something that affects everyone differently. Still, I think it’s a bad idea. I am not against non-hijabis (of course, I’m not!), but I think covered Muslimahs as models (without all those weird sexual poses) would be a better example, since in this case, non-hijabis would consider hijab and stop letting society/culture/etc. affect her problem of wearing it.

    3) If the magazine is well made and lives up to its price, then that’s wonderful. But I always flip through a magazine quickly to see if it’ something I would consider taking my time reading. But I think $16 USD is expensive for a magazine.. but yes we all agree that it is difficult for Muslimahs to find soemthing high in quality and content to suit them but with a big price tag. That is similar to paying for clothes at Shukr Online which most people would not do if they could find something cheaper. At the same time, you have discussed the negative points of this magazine filled with somewhat makrooh and haraam content.

    4) Also, I agree with others here. Even with it’s fairly makrooh content, it IS much better than things such as Seventeen magazine, Vogue, Glamour, etc. So if we think about it, we kind of help Muslimahs out, especially the teenage ones that are going through a phase. InshaAllah, the MGM will go into a phase where it will soon acquire much better content and without music and such.

    5) I have seen a lot of magazines, and by far, I think SISTERS magazine seems to be top-notch by content and theme. Even these magazines’ websites tell a lot about their magazine. SISTERS magazine is purely well made, the graphics and images are beautiful, and sometimes depict the peaceful feeling like candles and flowers. It doesn’t exactly need humans to show the magazine it’s brilliant. It also discusses more than just fashion and a slight topic on health; it has content on the environment, marriage, health, emaan, and helping a Muslimah with everyday issues.

    I do not work for them, but it’s a magazine that I actual read compared to a lot of other ones out there. It fascinates me, and their sub-site Islamic Design House has a lot of nice items, but a bit too expensive for me. It’s already in UK pounds, imagine how much that costs in USD.

  47. Avatar

    Muslimaah

    June 11, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    I would just like to make a comment to all of the people saying “this is a good alternative to vogue, cosmo, etc etc”…

    Why can’t we reach higher and better? Why should we settle for a magazine that promotes some objectionable material? In Islam, you cannot use the haraam for a higher good…we have submitted to this religion and the laws of Allah(swt), so let’s stick to the halaal and try to come out with some magazines that appeal to young American Muslim sisters and have barakah in their reading and selling by promoting the halal and the halal only.

    I totally understand why people are saying that…but I say, let’s be more creative, let’s not imitate the haraam elements of mainstream magazines.

    By the grace of Allah(swt), I know we can do it!

  48. Avatar

    tajweedquran

    June 16, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    i am not shore that is is a good like a muslim girl magazine first for shore we have to go on and see what are the things that they are promoting and then for shore we can comment

  49. Avatar

    Sarah

    June 14, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    I’m sorry but I
    totally disagree with this article. I think the magazine was a great form of
    interfaith mediation–for example, by explaining that not all Muslims are
    hardcore fundamentalists. This magazine was also a great stepping stone for
    young Muslim girls who were not comfortable with overtly showing their
    Muslimhood in America to reconsider their obligation to Islam as a priority.

    I’m sorry but the author of this article has the wrong
    impression of this magazine. The magazine wasn’t meant to be a portable Imam
    that you take everywhere with you, it was a tool for struggling young muslimahs
    to get reacquainted with their faith and non Muslims to understand the
    diversity among Muslim girls.

  50. Avatar

    Sanya

    July 23, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    I really have to agree with Sarah below– “the magazine wasn’t meant to be a portable Imam”– very true. Muslim sisters around the world are at entirely different stages in their development, and many feel intimidated by Islam as they see it. Something like this magazine, featuring fun, uplifting content that doesn’t try to judge them or tell them what to do– well, these are the touch stones that allow confused and intimidated sisters to move a little closer to Islam in a way that is comfortable for them. Personally, if I had a daughter, I would be happy for her to read something like this.

  51. Avatar

    ReaderRabbit

    October 27, 2012 at 12:43 AM

    Totally agree with you on that it’s impressive because it is ground-breaking; but people get influenced by what they’re exposed to, each to a more or lesser degree. Understanding the point of bringing someone closer to Islam in increments, on the contrary, it’s difficult to learn and unlearn ideas and behaviors…learn it from the source and make dua. After that, freedom of choice and will.

  52. Avatar

    Dadha97

    February 17, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Where I can buy this magazine? I need it very much

  53. Avatar

    Kamran

    August 19, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    AOA
    i completely agree with you because Muslims women are symbol for others women.

  54. Avatar

    Hasan Kamal

    February 26, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Its a nice magazine for the women. It is full of informative material and helps women to keep them straight.

  55. Avatar

    Learn Quraan

    June 1, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    very good magazine for our muslimah sisters. I have another suggestion for muslimah who want to learn Quran at comfort of your home.
    http://www.learnquraan.co.uk

  56. Avatar

    Ali

    January 12, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    Masha Allah
    Muslim women are symbol for all other women.This magazine can do a lot.But also there should be some other initiative acts.So that we able to expand the Muslim culture.

  57. Avatar

    Pat redman

    September 9, 2016 at 1:57 AM

    Creative comments , Just to add my thoughts if others are searching for a WI DHS F-1008 , I edited a fillable version here http://goo.gl/mtbKe9

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

Published

on

My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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